Revisiting “Black Downtown”: Spatial and Storytelling Practices in Austin, Texas
Harrison David Eppright, a multi-generational black artist, creates and participates in an everyday performance of culture and visibility through his capacity as a tour guide for the city and an ambassador for Austin’s visitor services. Harrison has a unique subjective experience affected by intersecting identities and oppressions, including those along the lines of race and sexuality. I examine how he assigns meaning to places that are fading, getting bulldozed, or enduring. This thesis explores how Harrison utilizes storytelling and walking tours in the shifting landscape of East Austin in order to find pride in “home” while making visible the cultural makeup being threatened by current circumstances such as gentrification and displacement. These neighborhoods in Austin, which were once designed as a “negro district”, now face the problem of losing their identity to a host of new development that has led to the pricing-out and displacement of mostly black and brown working-class residents and businesses.